Posted by: A Part of the Solution | May 9, 2010

Loving Stoop Labor

Anyone would tell you, it’s not a secret, I’m a pointy-headed intellectual. I’m a four-eyed brainiac. I’m over-educated and my hands are soft. These things are true. They make me a flat-out brilliant administrator. But I have a deep, abiding love of working with my too-small, too-soft, not-coordinated hands. And yes, I love the stoop labor.

Stoop labor, what’s that, you may ask yourself. Well, here’s a vegetable garden–just across the field out my windows. To get to the soil, to plant the veggies, to pick the rocks out, to weed the invaders, to scrape the mites, one must stoop to reach so far. Even if one is as short as am I. Stoop labor is most of what happens in a diversely planted, well-tended garden of any kind. Machines can only do the work if there’s a mono-crop in place. 

Stoop labor is satisfying. I have time to think whilst I claw the dirt from clumps back to friable soil. I have time to strategize while I work the fertilizer well in to the bed. I have time to plan while I chuck all the rocks larger than a hazelnut over to the wheelbarrow. I have time to dream while I gently set each seedling in its appointed location for optimal growth and cultivation. But that’s not the end of the gifts of stoop labor.

Stoop labor gives me closure. I can set out to create a forty-foot bed and fill it with appropriate varietals. I can claw it, weasel it, clear it of debris, fertilize it, plant it, and water it. When I have done those things, then I have completed a task from start to finish. And I love that. Yes, that bed will want tending for the rest of the season. But getting it up and going is all done with that discrete commitment of stoop labor.

It’s not like waiting for a call back from the department of revenue, which is out of my control. It’s not like waiting to have customers book in to the B&B, which is practically an act of nature relative to my ability to influence the moment someone chooses to choose us. It’s not like getting the books up to par, where there’s always some refinement or some small exception to all the rules I already know changing the ground of accounting beneath me where I stand. No, stoop labor has a beginning, a middle and an end.

More than that, stoop labor gives you something to show for your time. It’s hard evidence that you were working. Stoop labor builds gardens, and fences and pig pens and walking paths in the woods. And it’s good for you. The physical activity strengthens the back, tones the abs, broadens the shoulders, defines the pecs and tri-ceps. Stoop labor feels good when you stop and go get a hot shower, or a long soak in a tub. And stoop labor lets you feel productive, competent and practical.

Am I wrong to love it? Come on up here and try it out for yourself!



  1. I admit to loving that kind of work. It’s quiet and meditative, yet often full of life. Especially if I’m down on the ground for awhile – birds and other small animals will often get near without realizing I’m there. Except the Robins, who are bright enough to know that when I’m turning earth, I’ll be tossing the grubs for them to snack on, so they will be nearby and attentive to my work.

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